What does it mean to be an American these days? I don't want to say this country is turning into 1930s Germany, but there are some astounding similarities.
Instead of having blond hair and blue eyes, to be an "official" American, you must speak English, be Christian and not be gay. Oh, and if you are elected to Congress, make damn sure you're sworn in using a Bible.
According to syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., took his ceremonial oath of office this month using a Quran. This got several right-wingers all worked up, because -- follow my logic here (not Pitts') -- Some Muslims use Qurans. Some Muslims are terrorists who want to attack Americans. Therefore, all people who use Qurans are terrorists and, especially in the last five-plus years, are sworn enemies of America.
Yes, that's heavily exaggerated. No, not all, if any, conservatives think this way. But two of note are staunchly against what Ellison did, according to Pitts. Never mind that four U.S. presidents have been sworn in on a book other than the Bible, according to Pitts. Former President Franklin Pierce used a law book.
But it's Ellison's choice of a Quran --once owned by Thomas Jefferson, no less -- that has them in a lather.
According to Pitts, conservative columnist Dennis Prager said people of other faiths have taken their oaths using Christian Bibles, and those who can't aren't fit for office. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., said with our lax immigration laws, more Muslim Congressmen will also want to use Qurans.
Next thing you know, they'll want to speak Arabic, too.
Suddenly American citizens have a lengthy history of being suspicious of someone who could be Muslim praying in an airport.
NEWS ALERT: The 19 hijackers who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001, were Muslims. So are the insurgents causing problems in Iraq. BIGGER NEWS ALERT: An astronomically high percentage of Muslims, especially in this country, are peaceful. The difference is the key word "extremist." Believe it or not, there is no reason to fear every person carrying a Quran.
But you might think so with the society we're devolving into.
The melting pot dynamic is what makes this country so great. There's that whole First Amendment thing about having a right to practice any religion you choose. But many conservatives and Fox News commentators are aiming for unification, and not just in religion.
The biggest example of this is the topic of making English our official language. Why does America need to declare an official language? Border cities naturally have a larger Spanish-speaking population, but I have no problem, even here in Sandusky, pressing '1' on the voice mail message for English.
Most Americans do speak English. But some speak Spanish, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, German, Swahili and even -- GASP! -- Arabic. Learning English would certainly be a useful suggestion to newcomers and helpful in getting by in this country. But should it be a requirement? Absolutely not.
This issue even filters down to the currency some Spanish-speaking people might have taken with them across the border.
An Associated Press story printed Jan. 12 in this newspaper recounts Dallas-based Pizza Patron receiving death threats for accepting pesos. Forget for a minute that this chain is catering to its mostly Hispanic customers in mostly Hispanic neighborhoods, according to the story. Even without that, why all the outrage? It's been a few years since I've been to Windsor, Ontario, but I seem to recall them accepting U.S. dollars. I bet the same applies for Tijuana, Mexico.
There are foreigners here. We'll just have to deal with it, as gruesome as it may sound to some. Those who seem to be resisting Americans who aren't heterosexual English-speaking Christians might learn a thing or two by taking in different cultures. It might not even be painful.